Pumpkin and the Dog’s Bollocks

Suppose there’s a planet called Dog’s Bollocks and the aliens on Dog’s Bollocks have been using something called pumpkin for all their energy needs. But pumpkin has several problems. One: it’s running out. There’s a limited supply of it and eventually there’ll be none left. Two: it produces pollution which when inhaled can cause asthma in young aliens and reduces the lifespan of all aliens. Three: Continued use of it is increasing the temperature of Dog’s Bollocks. As the temperature increases they need to use more of it to maintain a comfortable temperature which only increases the temperature even more in a self-reinforcing cycle. Four: It’s unpleasant to smell.

Some of the aliens on Dog’s Bollocks think it’s a good idea to find an alternative to pumpkin and they have made a number of suggestions for a solution like investing in R&D to find alternatives, offering incentives for investment in alternatives, subsidising alternatives, disincentivizing pumpkin by adding taxes and other policies designed to discourage use, exploring options to reduce the demand for pumpkin, and even addressing some of the problems directly like capturing the bad smells and locking them away.

Most of the aliens on Dog’s Bollocks agree that some kind of combination of solutions is required. However there’s a very small and vocal community who vociferously object. They don’t want anyone to stop using pumpkin or to find alternatives. They say Dog’s Bollocks has been using pumpkin for hundreds of years and has become wealthy as a direct result and therefore they should continue using it for as long as possible. They object to all suggestions for research and investment in alternative options. They sound pretty irrational, don’t they? Irrational is exactly what I was thinking when I saw the Australian treasurer, Scott Morrison, worshipping a lump of coal in parliament last week.

Australia was already hot – that’s why I choose not to live there – but each year it gets hotter and hotter. You would think the people in charge would want to do something about that but their very unimaginative solution is to burn more coal which will only exacerbate the problem. To be fair, it must be frightening for people whose livelihoods depend on coal – they will be afraid of losing their jobs and we should have compassion for those people and help them to find alternative employment. But this is only an argument in favour of diversification. It’s not an argument to do nothing. If you find yourself working for a pharmaceutical company whose only product turns out to be carcinogenic that would be unlucky. But employment is not a valid reason to keep the product on the market. The pharmaceutical company should have diversified. Likewise, Australia should have started investing in alternative energy sources decades ago. But it’s not too late – they now need to invest heavily in alternatives, provide large subsidies for alternatives, put a tax on fossil fuels, remove all subsidies for fossil fuels, offer incentives for lifestyle changes like reducing car use and meat consumption, and lots more. They need to do as much as they possibly can because there’s no one solution to this problem. But sitting around and pretending it’s not a problem is not a good solution.

5 thoughts on “Pumpkin and the Dog’s Bollocks

    1. I had a quick look and remember you’re talking to a vegan cyclist here who only ever flies because I’m required to for work. I have no problem with reducing energy consumption overall. I’m also happy to accept nuclear energy. I’m a – “let’s do everything we can to solve this” – type of person. What I find dis-heartening is the “do nothing” approach.

      Do you think the people who favour doing nothing do so because they fear the inevitable change in lifestyle? If that’s the case then why do they object so vehemently to all other forms of energy? It’s as though they’re disgusted by attempts to extract power from wind and solar.

      1. In answer to your question, I think people do not want things to change. They want to keep the status quo and carry on as they are. They expect that things will only get better and they have a sense of entitlement. They are not going to vote for any sort of change that will adversely impact on themselves.

        I don’t think there is much understanding of what is required to combat the various crises that are heading our way, of which climate change is merely one.

        If we want to limit the potential rise in atmospheric temperature then, inter alia, economically recoverable fossil fuels will have to remain in the ground. Look at the position of the Scottish Government. It is fully subscribed to the findings of climate science, fully committed to renewable energy and then it is also fully committed to North Sea oil and extending exploration west of Shetland.

        Current world population stands at 7 billion and is projected to stabilise at around 10 billion. We are feeding the current population by turning oil into food (the green revolution). How are we going to feed more without oil?

        To me, the real question to answer is how do we change the current mindset of thinking of the Earth as providing unlimited goodies to one of thinking of the Earth as our lifeboat in space that we need to preserve for future generations.

        Sorry this is a bit of a rant. I do think you are doing a lot and applaud your positive attitude.

      2. I don’t understand why, if they don’t want things to change, they oppose very small measures like investment in other forms of energy and a tax on fossil fuels. Many of the people who object can afford to pay a little bit extra on their energy bills each month. If we had been doing this decades ago we might now be in a much better position. No-one is being asked to live in huts without power and growing their own food but if we do nothing at all then things could get much, much worse. I’d rather have a solar-powered battery backup than no power at all.

        Feeding the world will be much easier once we’ve stopped livestock farming. While I don’t think the whole world is going to go vegan I think there will be other options like lab-grown meat and dairy. People have started making milk without cows – http://www.perfectdayfoods.com

      3. I think you suffer from the same defect as I do. Applying logic to this. Most people do not apply logic to anything.

        I agree that we need to cut down on livestock but not to eliminate livestock farming. We certainly need to cut down on beef farming and probably sheep as well. Down here in Cornwall, the land is not that fertile. In the past, cattle were the best option, apart from where they used to fertilise the soil with seaweed. Now, it is intensive arable with lots of artificial fertiliser, large tractors and deep ploughing. Not sustainable.

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